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Advance Housing to get on with ‘core business’ following gifting of Norman House to community

Stuart McGuckinAlbany Advertiser
Advance Housing chief executive John Lysaught and chair Peter Adams say the organisation will be able to focus on its "core business" after it gifts Norman House to the community.
Camera IconAdvance Housing chief executive John Lysaught and chair Peter Adams say the organisation will be able to focus on its "core business" after it gifts Norman House to the community. Credit: Laurie Benson/RegionalHUB

Advance Housing Limited has gifted Norman House to the community so it can focus on its core business while aligning itself with the values of a community, according to its leaders.

The not-for-profit housing provider announced its intention to hand over ownership of the building in an open letter to the community published in Thursday’s Advertiser.

Chief executive John Lysaught said AHL had monitored community sentiment since making its plans for Norman House public in November 2022.

He said AHL’s board determined at a recent meeting that the best result for all parties would be to subdivide the lot and gift the building to the community through the City of Albany and Albany Historical Society.

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“Restoring old buildings is not AHL’s core business so we have decided that Norman House is best held by organisations that are most suited to achieving the community’s desire for that,” he said.

“We cannot in good conscience apply our limited resources to its renovation when so many people in our community are unable to find stable and affordable housing.”

Board chair Peter Adams added the gifting would be a notable cost for AHL.

“But we believe it’s the best way to show our commitment to addressing a community priority, expressed loud and clear, without hindering our ability to invest in new housing,” he said.

The demolition of Norman House had been included in AHL’s plan to develop 25 dwellings between Frederick Street and Stirling Terrace.

It would have allowed for the construction of a six-unit apartment building on a similar footprint to the existing structure.

Mr Lysaught said a commitment to providing the best outcomes for Albany’s most vulnerable communities meant exploring every option available to maximise AHL’s limited assets and resources.

“We cannot utilise our resources for activities that do not meet that end, and this often means that we look to redevelop existing, underutilised land that we own for new building projects,” he said.

“AHL have made significant efforts to re-purpose Norman House over a number of years and were rejected by government for funding support at every attempt.”

Previous costing attained by AHL estimated the cost of re-purposing Norman House would have been more than $2 million.

The organisation believes the cost would now likely be $3 million based on rising construction costs over the last three years.

“For a similar investment, six to eight small format units could be constructed and thereby house six to eight households as opposed to one, which is very hard to justify in the current housing crisis,” Mr Lysaught said.

AHL will look to amend its pending development application to focus on building mixed housing on vacant land adjoining Frederick Street, with additional access from Spencer Street.

The project is one of many in the pipeline for AHL, which hopes to build at least 80 dwellings over the coming decade using largely its own resources and ability to take on debt.

We cannot in good conscience apply our limited resources to its renovation when so many people in our community are unable to find stable and affordable housing.

John Lysaught

“Our projects currently in planning will reshape Albany’s built landscape and set a new benchmark for private developers to follow,” Mr Adams said.

Mr Lysaught said there had been too much focus on what AHL was proposing for Norman House rather than “the substantial increase in affordable housing we are working towards”.

“Currently we have a 12 unit development out for tender in McKail, and we have four other larger scale projects at various stages of maturity around Albany,” he said.

“They will allow people to access both inner and outer urban locations as they come on stream and the projects respond to the enormous need for small format one and two-bedroom dwellings.”

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